Up close and personal

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXIII-C, 08 September 2019

Wisdom 9:13-18 ><)))*> Philemon 9-10, 12-17 ><)))*> Luke 14:25-33

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019

“A loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”

Albert Camus, “The Plague”

I always tell people not all days are bright and sunny but, there comes a time when we are so down, when all is so dark and even hopeless that the only thing left for us is to believe, to hope, and to love.

There is really nothing we can do except to patiently wait for the storm to pass while we suffer alone and cry alone. That is when we are surprised and even shocked at how the gospel of Jesus and the commandments of God can sometimes be so rigid that we want it modified even a little because we want to get even, we want to fight back. If we are not busy thinking of revenge, we complain, asking God why me who should suffer?

But, the more we pray and submit ourselves to God, the more we realise that God’s ways are not our ways. That despite the difficulties, we feel deep inside God is with us, guiding us, leading us to something better!

“Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what our Lord intends? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.”

Wisdom 9:13, 17-18
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019

Here we find the importance of Christ’s teaching last Sunday, of the need to be humble, to be our true selves by being where we should be for “those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves shall be humbled.”

It is in our poverty, in our weakness, even in our incomprehension when the Holy Spirit works well to reveal to us the higher realities of life often wrapped in every pain and suffering we go through. And that is why sometimes in life, it is best to be unreasonable when the only explanation and justification we can have in still being loving and forgiving, merciful and understanding, kind and patient is the person of Jesus Christ.

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:26
Photo by the author, Holy Family Chapel, Sacred Heart Novitiate (Novaliches), July 2016.

Our gospel today is a continuation of last Sunday when Jesus was invited to a Sabbath dinner by a Pharisee. After giving them some “table talks”, Jesus told them another parable about the great feast to stress that God’s mercy is so vast that there is room for everyone in heaven.

People started to follow him after that meal and lesson on heaven, wanting to become his followers and disciples. To further motivate them in following him, Jesus challenged them with these powerful words using a figure of speech. The word “hate” may be too strong and harsh but such is the gravity of discipleship: we have to lose our very selves even those dearest to us when we have to see everything and everyone in the person of Jesus. To “resolutely follow Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem”, we must be ready to be totally his with him alone as the basis in every decision that can be sometimes foolish like St. Paul who claimed in one of his writings he was a fool for Christ!

See the “foolishness in Christ” of this great apostle: St. Paul was in prison at Rome awaiting trial and judgement. A slave named Onesimus escaped his Christian master named Philemon. It was definitely against the law to harbor escaped slaves yet St. Paul welcomed Onesimus in his prison as his companion and servant! More than that, without really knowing him well, St. Paul baptised Onesimus to become a Christian!

Imagine St. Paul’s adherence to the gospel of Christ even to the point of being unreasonable when he could have just told Onesimus to go back or go somewhere else and spare him all the troubles! But no. It was very clear with St. Paul in asking Philemon to receive Onesimus back that he was not sticking to any moral standards or laws but solely on the person of Jesus Christ, in our communion in him as brothers and sisters.

“Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.”

Philemon 15-17
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Next Sunday we shall hear the very long but beautiful parable of the merciful father also known as parable of the prodigal son. Like God our Father, the merciful father would reassure his two sons of his immense love for them despite their sins because of their very persons as his sons.

Today in our Sunday Eucharist, Jesus welcomes us all as persons, his brothers and sisters despite our sins and weaknesses. Like Mary whose birth we also celebrate today inspire us to receive Jesus our Savior in his total person in ourselves by receiving the persons around us in him. Amen.

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